Lubberland takes the Swedish name for ‘Cockaigne,’ a land of plenty in medieval myth, and was first made famous in the broadside ballad “An Invitation to Lubberland,” first printed in 1685. With ‘Lazy Land’ an approximate translation, the exhibition’s title sets out its themes – presenting a bold yearning for an idyllic world of ease, abundance and human connection.
Taking combined inspiration from such masterpieces as Bruegel’s The Land of Cockaigne, Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights and Matisse’s Bonheur de Vivre, Rüdham’s paintings are crowded with intersecting figures, stylised as floating or falling silhouettes repeated across each brightly textured scene. As in Dante’s Divine Comedy, in Lubberland Rüdham offers a sense of joyful optimism but also foreboding – set amid the context of a soul’s journey down to Hell and back to Heaven. Paintings such as Lemon Curd and Strawberry Jam are luscious and thronging, bursting with figures that flow like the wine in those medieval streams of fantasy.
Alongside Old Masters, Rüdham has long been inspired by the colour studies of the Bauhaus artists, concerned with the interactions of colour. In these new works, however, he has become increasingly focused on ideas of patterning, with key influences including Anni and Josef Albers. Maintaining his signature bold palette, these paintings shift towards a more maximalist style, appearing simplistic but with a focused perspective intensified through spherical or oval compositions – becoming portals within abstracted worlds.
Meticulous and painstaking, Rüdham’s complex paintings are composed of many strata – layer upon layer of reverse cut outs. By hand-cutting each figure individually using tape, thousands of figures are created, intersecting and overlapping one another through a lengthy, intricate process. From afar, the figures are barely distinguishable, seeming like an abstract design, forcing perspective into the centre of the composition. Close up, each form reveals itself, emerging as though embossed upon the surface.
Lubberland also sees the artist present two works from his new ‘Cotton Candy’ series. A departure from Rüdham’s central painting practice, these skyscapes take inspiration from Hockney’s paper experiments and are created through a process of blending paper, dying the cotton with pure pigment and pressing the strands back together. Soft and dreamlike, the skies take on a tactile aesthetic, celebrating the materiality of the medium.